Aquaponics vs. Traditional Farming (Which is Better)

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Aquaponics and traditional farming have different requirements relating to their planting area, care and maintenance, and water consumption. They also have different unique advantages and disadvantages.

• Planting Area

While traditional farming will need fertile land and water, you can set up an aquaponic system almost anywhere.  Aquaponics also allows the establishment of the appropriate climate for plants.

Traditional farms are typically located in areas far from the city where the majority of the population resides. You can build aquaponics farms even in the heart of the city. This will save a lot of time and fuel transporting produce.

• Care and Maintenance

In traditional farming, the soil needs to be tilled, the weeds need to be removed, fertilizers need to be sprayed, and plants need to be watered.

These activities are not needed in aquaponics because water substitutes soils. With the absence of soil, weeds have no places to grow. Plants feed on fish feces, so there is no need for fertilizer. Plants in an aquaponic system are also easier to harvest.

• Water Consumption

Traditional farming consumes a lot of water. Some crops require fields to be flooded with water. The heat of the sun makes water evaporate. Water allows plants to seep in pesticides and herbicides.

Traditional farming is referred to by many as primitive farming. Aquaponic farming, on the other hand, is a new farming system.

You may be wondering what aquaponics vs. traditional farming is. Is it a thing, and which method is better today for food sustainability?

Traditional farming works through indigenous knowledge using natural resources, traditional tools, fertilizer, and the farmer’s cultural beliefs. Over 50% of farmers in the world still use this method.

Since a few decades ago, aquaponics has become popular in food production, with many beginners scrambling to create these systems. Many kinds of research have been done to prove its potential for food sustainability.

Traditional Farming

Traditional farming uses seeds, soil, fertilizers, irrigation systems, and tractors to produce vast amounts of food with less physical effort.

Traditional farming has been used for many centuries to supply humanity with food.

Today, it is still the most used farming method mainly because of its benefits to the farmers and consumers. There are, however, also some drawbacks to this method of farming.

Pros of Traditional Farming

• Low Cost of Production

Traditional farming, when compared to other farming methods, allows farmers to mass-produce crops and sell them at lower prices. This gives the consumers more choices because of more competitors.

• Increase Food Production

Since production cost is low, farmers produce more crops to meet the high demand for food supply. Food production has become low because of the effects of global warming, drought, and natural calamities; however, it is still the farming method that produces larger quantities of food.

• More Jobs

This farming method provides jobs to the working class. Farmers typically use large tracts of land and need many workers in the fields, as well as laborers, delivery truck drivers. It also provides work for workers of fertilizer and pesticide producers.

Cons of Traditional Farming

• Environment and Health Hazards

Many opponents of traditional farming claim this farming method brings a lot of pollutants to the environment, such as the byproducts of the manufacturing process of fertilizers and chemicals.

• Fertilizers and Pesticides

Fertilizers and pesticides sprayed on crops are often made of harmful chemicals. These harmful chemicals, more often, enter the crops and can be health hazards to humans and animals who consume them.

Traditional farming offers a lot of advantages. Albeit its drawbacks, traditional farming has remained a popular and commonly used farming method. It is expected for farmers to continue with their research to find ways to produce less expensive and safer crops.

Urbanization is fast catching up on traditional farming, leaving lesser lands to till in some areas. This is where other farming methods come in.

Aquaponics

Aquaponics combines aquaculture (growing aquatic animals and fish) and hydroponics (growing soilless plants). In this farming method, plants feed on the waste products of fish and aquatic animals. In short, aquaponics allows you to grow plants and fish at the same time in one container.

The plants, in turn, clean the water inside the aquaponic system for use again of the fish. Beneficial bacteria found in between the plant roots get converted to fish waste.

The solids, on the other hand, become substances used for plant growth.  This ecosystem creates a good collaboration between gardening and aquaculture.

Pros of Aquaponics

• Organic Fertilizer

Fish waste is a form of organic fertilizer because it does not contain pesticides and herbicides. The plants only take in only fish feces that are rich in nutrients.

• Eco-friendly

Aquaponics is eco-friendly because plants feed on fish waste in its natural form.

• Conserves Water

Aquaponics saves water by as much as 90% because it recycles water.

• Affordable

Plants feed on fish feces; thus, you save on fertilizer costs. It also requires a minimal workforce to maintain. Aquaponics can also be installed anywhere.

• Saves on Space

An aquaponic system can be the size of an aquarium or as huge as a greenhouse. It can be built in desert areas and poor soil areas. It is the best farming method in places (e.g., urban areas) where there is less or no arable land.

• Easy to Maintain

It is an easy-to-maintain system as long as you know how it works. It is something even kids can do. There is no soil till and no weeds to remove.

• Profitable

Aquaponics offers excellent and sustainable income because farmers can harvest plants and fish. The plants also grow faster.

Cons of Aquaponics

• Limited Crop Variety

There is a long list of crops that cannot be grown in an aquaponic system. Root vegetables dependent on soil for their growth will not thrive on the water as a soil substitute. Large crops that take in a lot of nutrients and water are also not for aquaponics.

• Must be Installed by a Professional

 Aquaponics is a complex farming system. It requires thorough knowledge to build and maintain. If it is not constructed correctly, the plants and fish can die. Mistakes such as overcrowding the fish tank and installing the wrong pipes and plants can only be avoided when the aquaponic system is installed by a professional.

• Difficult to Maintain

In traditional farming, you will only need to care for the plants. In aquaponics, you will need to take care of the plants and the fish. You should protect plants from pathogens, and fish should always have the right conditions.

• High Cost of Electricity

Fish tanks need to maintain specific temperatures 24/7. Water tanks also need to run round the clock. If you decide to have an aquaponic system, you need to be ready for high electricity costs.

What do Plants Need to Grow?

Plants need light, air, water, nutrients, support, temperature, and a microbes community—aquaponics vs. traditional farming access these growth elements in different ways.

• Light

Plants need light for photosynthesis which makes them grow.

Traditional Farming. The sun is the source of light.

Aquaponics. When installed outdoors, the sun also provides light, but the light is provided by grow lights when indoors.

• Air

Carbon dioxide and oxygen are needed for plant health. Plant roots will rot and die if they lack oxygen.

Traditional Farming. Plant roots access oxygen through watering sessions and rain.

Aquaponics. Water in the aquarium or container contains a certain level of oxygen. Oxygen pumps supply extra oxygen.

• Nutrients

Plants need nutrients to grow. Plants primarily absorb essential nutrients through their roots. Nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus should be liquified in water with the right pH level.

Traditional Farming.  Plants in the soil get their nutrients after water from a watering system or rain dissolves nutrients that are in the soil.

Aquaponics. Nutrients come from fish feces floating in the water and ready to be absorbed by the plants.

• Structural Support

Plants need structural support for their protection and to maintain their shape.

Traditional Farming. The soil provides structural support to keep plants upright.

Aquaponics. Structural support allows plants to maintain their shape; structural support is provided by adding some soil substitute such as gravel. You can also use a floating raft to hold plants.

• Temperature

Different plants require different levels of temperature.

Traditional Farming. Certain plants grow only in specific temperature zones. This is why plants are classified according to zones – to specific areas or regions where they can best grow or where they can only grow.

Aquaponics. There are many ways farmers create the right temperature for the plants to grow. Greenhouses maintain the right indoor temperature either through air conditioners or heaters to allow plants to grow. In some instances, shade cloths are also used.

• Microbial Communities

Traditional farming (soil farming) is similar to aquaponics in terms of microbial communities. Tiny organisms thrive in both soil farming and aquaponic systems.

Traditional Farming. The bacteria Nitrobacter and Nitrosomonas attach to the roots of certain plants to create nitrogen fertilizer. Thousands of microorganisms exist in the soil. They are essential for breaking down wastes and other elements needed for plant health.

The soil has a bacterial colony that contributes to proper plant growth. Bacteria allows plants to be resistant to disease and also to retain water in the soil.

Aquaponics. The bacteria Nitrobacter and Nitrosomonas are components of the nitrogen cycle.

Many people argue that soil is better than aquaponics in terms of being a natural system. Aquaponics can also host beneficial bacteria.

In this regard, the process of creating good soil is similar to the process of creating good water (aquaponics).

• Growth Requirements

Traditional farming differs from aquaponics in terms of its requirements for growth. Aquaponics also requires raising fish.

The feces of fish are the source of nutrients of plants in an aquaponic system.

Which is Better?

There is no hardcore choice of which planting method is better: aquaponics vs. traditional farming.

If you choose to plant in a city where arable land is scarce or not available, aquaponics is more viable than traditional farming.

In areas where you have more access to arable land and more water, traditional farming is a perfect fit.

Aquaponics vs. traditional farming each have suitable areas where plants will thrive at their best.

However, it does not discount the fact that you can build an aquaponic system in an area with vast tracts of land suitable for traditional farming.

You can if you intend to grow plants not in the correct growth zone. Doing so will allow you to gain the benefits of aquaponics and traditional farming.

Aquaponics may or may not be the right choice because it can be built anywhere.

However, traditional farming is always a good choice as long as there is arable land and water; the main thing to consider is the soil’s condition.

Traditional farming will require constant attention, while aquaponics does not need as much attention if your system is automated, even when both systems are used in the same area.

However, in suburban and urban areas, where water is cheaper and abundant.

Choosing between aquaponics and traditional farming is not the relative answer to the world’s problems on food. They are, instead, methods that you can use in figuring out how they can coexist with the planet.

Final Thoughts

Traditional farming came first. Hydroponics came next. Now aquaponics has been added to the various methods to grow plants. Plants are essential elements in the ecosystem.

The lack of arable land due to them being converted due to economic development has made professionals find new ways to grow plants.

Hydroponics and aquaponics have allowed people in urban communities who do not have access to arable land to enjoy the joys of “farming.”

There is nothing like harvesting freshly grown herbs, spices, and vegetables grown indoors.

The choice between aquaponics vs. traditional farming is dependent on various factors.

Each planting system or method has its own benefits and drawbacks.

While traditional farming used for centuries is here to stay, aquaponics and other indoor planting systems allow people to go into farming without access to arable land.

Jenny M
Tribal Writer

Edited by
Patricia Godwin

Patricia Godwin

Patricia has many years of experience as a content writer on various subjects, but her first love is gardening. She’s never met a plant she didn’t like and, consequently, she writes about every type of plant you can think of. Once an avid gardener with a herb garden, a succulent rockery, and a rose garden – to mention a few. Nowadays, she’s constantly on the move searching for interesting plants to bring to your attention; and explain to you all the details you need to grow, care and maintain these plants.

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